Thanks to the incredible popularity of former YouTube exclusive and now Netflix original Cobra Kai, interest in The Karate Kid franchise is higher than it’s been for almost 30 years, with the third season recently becoming one of the streaming service’s ten most-watched returning shows ever after drawing in over 40 million viewers in the first four weeks it was available.
Long before he agreed to a return in Cobra Kai, though, Daniel LaRusso was already the defining role of Ralph Macchio’s career, one that he gave up trying to escape from many years ago and decided to embrace instead. Of course, that comes with the territory when you’re a young actor cast as the lead in a beloved 1980s classic that embedded itself in the very fabric of pop culture and went on to score critical and commercial acclaim.
The first major film appearance of Macchio’s career came the year before in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Outsiders, where he shared the screen with a bevy of future stars including Tom Cruise, Matt Dillon, Patrick Swayze, Diane Lane, Rob Lowe and Emilio Estevez. And in a recent interview, the 59 year-old revealed that a trio of his contemporaries were also in the running for The Karate Kid, all three of whom would go on to experience huge success in their own right.
“I was found early, I was cast very early, but it was like one of those test deals where you’re not in yet. I remember walking by and seeing Charlie Sheen hanging out outside producer Jerry Weintraub’s bungalow, thinking, ‘What’s Charlie doing here?’. Nic Cage, I think, and Robert Downey Jr. Robert Downey Jr. also did the workshop of the part I did in The Outsiders.”
The idea of teenagers Robert Downey Jr., Nicolas Cage and Charlie Sheen auditioning for The Karate Kid is certainly a fascinating thought, given what they went on to accomplish over the next four decades, with all three of them scoring their own breakout roles shortly after Macchio had been cast as Daniel LaRusso in Weird Science, Rumble Fish and Red Dawn respectively.